In 2007 Jon Nguyen released the documentary Lynch, which provided a small glimpse into the fascinating world of David Lynch – artist, filmmaker and all-around peculiar dude. Less of an intimate look into the life of the man and more a behind-the-scenes peek at his process, the documentary was an interesting watch but seemed to only scratch the surface of what inspired and cultivated Lynch’s unique artistic style.
Nearly a decade later, Nguyen returns with his camera poised once again on Lynch in the followup, David Lynch: The Art Life. This time around, the typically reserved Lynch allows the filmmakers to create a more personal portrait, diving into his past and chronicling his youth from his upbringing and relationship with his parents through the creation of his first feature film, Eraserhead.
Combining interview sessions, family photos, stills from his various art pieces, archival footage and some candid moments, the film gives us a rare glimpse into the life of the typically guarded man, but don’t expect any answers to those burning questions you may have about the meaning behind any of his films; that’s something he still keeps to himself and something the filmmakers dared not press him on either.
While the film uncovers a lot of Lynch’s biography, it’s focus remains squarely on his youth, yet even that has some aspects and people who were not expounded upon, leaving the story with a feeling like there’s something mysteriously missing, not unlike many of Lynch’s own films.
The Art Life is now out on Criterion Blu-ray, and while the film itself looks gorgeous, with a top-notch transfer, this is the first time in quite a while that I’ve been a bit disappointed in one of their releases. The artwork on the inside jewel case, a print of one of Lynch’s paintings, is nice, and the booklet features both an essay from critic Dennis Lim and a selection of photos from Lynch’s collection.
The bonus content and special features, on the other hand, are seriously lacking with only a trailer and new interview with director Nguyen included. The director himself says in the interview that they compiled thousands of hours of footage for the film, so it would have been nice to see more of those candid moments that maybe didn’t make the cut as some additional content.
I love the work of David Lynch, and while I did find this film to be an interesting watch, the Criterion Collection is a project aimed to gather and preserve important pieces of cinema; I just don’t think this release fits within that mold.